The Administration of Elections
Institutions in charge of elections
The analysis of institutions in charge of elections in Chad reveals two aspects that are closely related. The first aspect is the impartiality of institutions in charge of organizing elections. For many this is the cornerstone of the system. This impartiality is often equated with the nature and extent of the powers allocated to the institution, its administrative and financial autonomy, its membership and the procedures for appointing members. The second aspect that is often stressed is the professionalism of the institutions in charge of elections. They must be able to conduct electoral operations in a meticulous manner.
The management of elections in Chad has seen many changes in recent years. Initially a mixed system, the country has since adopted a system which is relatively independent of the government. Before the 2011 and 2012 elections, the organization of the elections was shared by the Ministry of Territorial Affairs and the National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI). The registration of voters, for example, was under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Territorial Affairs, through the National Electoral Census Commission (CNRE). This Commission made the electoral lists which were used in elections. The eclectic nature this Commission and its connection to the Ministry of Territorial Affairs caused much suspicion among political leaders and voters. As for the National Independent Electoral Commission, the lack of balance in its composition made it less independent and impartial (It included 31 members but 24 belonged to the ruling majority). The suspicion towards institutions in charge of organizing elections, led political leaders to adopt new reforms.
The National Independent Electoral Commission (CENI): The August 13, 2007 Political Agreement introduced a new form of electoral management that was more balanced and relatively independent. The National Independent Electoral Commission’s membership is now based on parity between the opposition and the ruling party, each side is represented by 15 members at the Commission. As for the Commission’s president, he/she is chosen on a consensual basis by the opposition and the ruling party from a set of persons with a record of good moral standing and impartiality. In addition to the introduction of parity, the Commission’s mandate was also changed. The Commission is now completely in charge of the organization of elections from the registration of voters to the proclamation of provisional results.
The Political Agreement of April 2nd 2013 reformed the composition of the CENI and created the Cadre National de Dialogue Politique (CNDP). The 2013 agreement recognized the importance of including representatives of civil society on the CENI. In an attempt to augment the transparency of the electoral process the composition of the CENI was changed such that representatives of civil society received six members on the CENI, the political opposition twelve members, and the political majority twelve members. These thirty members were then responsible to select the thirty first member as the president of the CENI from a list of persons known for their political impartiality, independence, and autonomy. This composition of the CENI was short lived, however, as both the opposition and majority were dissatisfied by prospect of losing three members on the CENI. Consequently, on August 17th 2013 the electoral code was modified by Electoral Law No 016. The composition of CENI was increased to forty one members: the president, six members representing civil society, seventeen members for the political opposition, and seventeen members for the political majority. In this way political parties went from losing three members on the CENI to gaining two members, despite the addition of representatives of civil society.
How to fairly represent all political parties in Chad — more than 150 — is not a new debate and it was one of the issues dealt with by the reforms of the 2013 Political Agreement which created the CNDP. The CNDP consist of two political bodies: the General Assembly, and the Coordination Office. The General Assembly provides a place for all of the official political parties recognized in Chad as well as members designated to represent civil society. The Coordination Office is composed of seventeen members: six members representing the political opposition, six members of the political majority, three members representing civil society, and two moderators. The CNDP’s mandate is until the end of the 2013-2016 electoral process and in general is responsible for insuring that political parties respect the institutional mechanisms provided in the Electoral Code, especially in the upcoming elections. The CNDP is also tasked with the oversight and implementation of the biometric census, local and regional elections of 2014, legislative elections of 2015, and presidential elections of 2016.
The CENI is equally tasked with the electoral process and initially, other than providing a forum for all political parties to voice their concerns about the administration of upcoming elections it was not clear what role the CNDP would play in the process. This attracted a significant amount of criticism as it appeared the government was wasting funds by doubling the institutions in charge of the electoral process and dramatically increasing the number of actors and voices involved in the decision making process. Indeed, at first the officially recognized opposition refused to participate in the CNDP at all. In the end, however, their concerns were alleviated and the CNDP assumed the role of oversight of the CENI. Still, the creation of the CNDP has significantly delayed the electoral process. For example, the implementation of the biometric census—which all parties agree must take place before elections are organized—was completely cancelled September 9th 2014 by the United Nations Development Program because political actors of the CNDP lacked discretion in the process of selecting a local partners for executing census. This cancellation practically insures that local and regional elections will not take place on schedule in 2014 and further delay the entire electoral process possibly forcing the legislature to enact a special extension of offices terms.
The Permanent Bureau of Elections (BPE) is one of the major changes which resulted from the electoral reforms of the Political Agreement. The BPE is an institution providing technical support to the Electoral Commission. During election periods, the Bureau is supervised by the Electoral Commission, and serves as its secretariat. When elections are over, the Bureau becomes part of the Ministry of Territorial Affairs and its mandate for that period is to update and manage electoral lists and databases. The Bureau’s President is appointed by decree of The President of the Republic in a cabinet meeting.
Polling stations: The provisions of the Electoral Code mandating that a polling station shall not cover an area larger than five kilometers have been upheld. However, the location of polling stations has not always been appropriate. For instance, in the last legislative, presidential and municipal elections several polling stations were located outside, such as under a tree, even though authorities in charge of elections could have used public buildings such as elementary, middle, and high school premises.
It should also be noted that the deadlines for posting electoral lists were not met. As a result, many voters were not able to locate their polling stations. Additionally, there were inadequacies between the voter lists arranged in alphabetical order and the voter’s registration documents arranged in chronological order. However, thanks to innovations introduced during the last registration of voters, those who registered were able to receive their electoral card on the same day. During the last elections, authorities issued all voters a document serving as proof of registration immediately after the registration process, but the distribution of electoral cards started only a few days before the ballot which did facilitate an effective distribution process.
The limits of current institutions
The reforms of Chad’s electoral process introduced by the August 13, 2007 Political Agreement were undoubtedly a step forward, but they have their own limitations. Political leaders are satisfied with the current organization of the electoral system, but there remain several flaws. The National Independent Electoral Commission remains a politicized institution, despite the reforms undertaken. Its members represent political parties in the institution, but some of them have no experience with electoral issues. Furthermore, the members of the CENI’s chapters across the country were not selected in accordance with the provisions of the 020/PR/2009 law and the decree 621/PR/PM/MISP/2009. The 020 law regarding the creation of the CENI and the 621 decree which provides the details for the enforcement of the law, state clearly that the CENI’s chapters and polling stations shall be staffed by the CENI in compliance with the provisions instituting parity between the ruling party and the opposition. However, political parties interfered in the process through the Commission in charge of monitoring the Political Agreement and this Commission undertook oversight of the entire staffing process of the CENI’s chapters across the country.
This lack of compliance with the law was also noted in the selection of the members of polling stations. Article 39 of the Electoral Code states that the members of polling stations shall be selected by the CENI’s local chapters, however, political parties overtook that role without taking into account the expertise needed to fulfill that responsibility. This risky approach to the staffing polling stations resulted in many polling stations producing inadequately written minutes. This in turn led to the nullification of thousands of minutes from polling stations, especially in the 2011 legislative elections. Poorly written minutes also failed to serve in subsequent electoral disputes. Representatives of political parties were not prepared to properly discharge their duties.
The creation of the Permanent Bureau of Elections (BPE) has certainly been an improvement that may lead to continuity in the institutions that manage elections, but it still suffers from serious limitations. The weakness of its human resources is not the least of such limitations. Such deficiencies account for the missing of deadlines in the production of electoral lists and the late distribution of electoral cards as well as errors on electoral cards.
In addition, the hybrid nature of the BPE is a problem and will undoubtedly be a source of trouble in the future. Many political and civil society leaders will certainly reject the supervision of the BPE by the Ministry of Territorial Affairs during non-election periods. The core mission of the BPE is to update electoral lists, but its affiliation with the Ministry of Territorial Affairs which is often headed by a senior member of the ruling party, casts doubt on the reliability of the electoral lists. This is in part why electoral lists remain the main point of contention between the ruling party and the opposition.
Useful links and documentary resources
- République du Tchad (2007). Accord politique en vue du renforcement du processus démocratique au Tchad.
- Dr Ahmat Ali Hissein, Directeur général du BPE, 19 janvier. « Les élections locales: Le Bureau permanent des élections n’est pas la Ceni »: http://www.journaldutchad.com/article.php?aid=2308